When learning a new skill, topic, or idea, we each have a preferred way to learn, and we each respond differently to preferred ways of teaching.
This can make for tricky communication at times, but it also makes for an opportunity to improve how we learn and how we teach so we can further connect with the person or topic.
This past week my family went to our local ski hill and took my older daughter snowboarding. It was her fourth birthday, and she wanted to snowboard! This was an exciting idea for my wife and I when we heard her remind us over the prior week.
She had already had a snowboard without bindings that she would practice on in the living room, kitchen, and yard. She has a board with a tow rope, so that meant I was often pulling her around until she moved to the next activity. This was the start of her learning a new skill.
She had seen her mom and I snowboard previously, and she had seen it enough to understand how she wanted to stand. If you asked her how to snowboard, she would spread her feet, bend her knees, and put her arms out to her side. An excellent starting position!
She learned this by watching.
The first time she got on her snowboard to get towed around, she forgot all that great practice she had been doing on the floor. She needed a reminder of her position, and I could tell her to bend her knees, or move her hands out, and she would come back to a position she had seen and practiced before. She knew what the position felt like, but she needed a verbal reminder of what to do.
She learned this by listening.
This gave her a feel for balancing on a moving board, reacting to a loss of balance, and even learning how to fall and catch herself. Naturally, I started her off with a slow and straight path, but soon we were going around toys, over flattened boxes, and even switching riding stance.
She learned this by feeling.
As the difficulty increased, so did her skill. She continued to watch, listen, and feel to further enhance her ability. Soon, we were quickly racing around the room while she yelled, "I'm shredding the gnar!"
The day we took her out to the mountain, she had already practiced snowboarding in the home. She had felt safe and became confident, which translated to her enthusiasm to get out on the snow. She had utilized all her learning ability to watch, listen, and feel how to snowboard.
The combination of all three teaching techniques allowed her first day out to be a huge success!
She kept wanting to ride and each time she went a bit further and a bit faster. She took a few falls, but she's four, and falling is awesome when you're four!
I knew, that if I had only tried to show her how to snowboard, she wouldn't have done as well.
I knew, that if I had only tried to tell her how to snowboard, she wouldn't have done as well.
And I knew, that if I had only tried to have her feel how to snowboard, she wouldn't have done as well.
She initially learned through watching as this is her preferred learning style. After watching and mirroring, she developed a sense for what position felt right, and what she was able to do in certain positions. Occasionally, we used verbal cues to remind her to get back into her position.
She learned by using three different learning methods. They are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
Each method is valuable in different ways to different people, and mastery of a skill requires the ability to utilize all the learning styles. Even if one method is preferred, all are beneficial.
In the therapy clinic, we want to utilize all of these styles to give a client a complete understanding of the task we are working on.
We will demonstrate an exercise to stimulate visual learning. We will instruct an exercise to stimulate auditory learning. We will do an exercise to stimulate kinesthetic learning.
Understanding your own learning style is important to play to your strengths.
Having a provider that plays to those strengths, while enhancing the other methods, is the best way to lock in a position, movement, or pattern specific to your goals.
You should be using all learning styles throughout a treatment session or class. Finding a provider that works with you includes understanding learning style preferences and utilizing each for an effective treatment plan.